Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

Agenting 101: Part Six Cont.: Royalties Some More

STATUS: Busy. Busy. And then I was busy. I’m trying to get submissions out and finalize everything for my trip to New York next week.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? TIME The Alan Parsons Project

I’m talking about royalties, right?

Okay. Dig right in. I’m not going to go into details on these but you will have royalty clauses in your contract for all kinds of specialty things—like on copies sold for export to third parties. Mail order and direct response. Special discount sales. Copies sold to book clubs. Remainder-in-Place.

And then there is a whole clause on when the Publisher won’t give you a royalty such as on damaged copies or for the blind or for promotional use.

Royalties based on Cover price will look like this:

From yesterday, Hardcover:
10% to 5000
12.5% 5001-10,000
15% thereafter

Unless you are Stephen, Nora, or John. Chances are good you’ll have some better royalty percentages.

Trade Paperback is usually 7.5% flat rate but if you can get an escalation to 10% after 25,000 or 30,000 copies, great!

Mass Market
8% to 150,000 copies
10% thereafter

There are still some houses trying to squeeze a 6% royalty (and I’ve even heard of lower) but that’s so not standard so don’t let them convince you otherwise.

Standard Subsidiary rights splits:
They are usually 50/50 with these exceptions:
90/10 first serial (and, for clarification, the first number before the slash is to the author)
80/20 UK
75/25 Translation
66 2/3 Canadian

But as I mentioned before, I’ve seen all kinds of other splits and usually with the small or independent houses.

As you can tell, in contract negotiation, there is a lot of attention to detail. Random House also just revised their boilerplate contract and want to stick in a bunch of new clauses that aren’t particularly favorable to authors.

That’s why my contracts manager can be so valuable.


11 Responses

  1. Ryan Field said:

    Okay fellow writers, though we may disagree on certain things, and this comment is (I’m sorry) off the subject of royalties, I need any advice you can offer. I recently e-queried an agent, following all the guidelines…short, sweet and to the point…but never received a response. In the course of three months or so I e-queried him again, three more times, and then stopped. This morning I finally get a response and this is how it read, “Please stop sending me this query.” I’ve had plenty of rejection over the years, but never anything like this. The agency is Artists & Artisans and the agent is Adam Chromy. I know it’s awful for a writer to continue querying if they’ve been rejected, but that wasn’t the case here. I never received a reply. Did I do something wrong? Was it unprofessional to send more queries if I hadn’t received a reply? I’m open to any comments you guys (readers of this blog) might have to offer, good or bad. And, sorry this is off the topic.

  2. O hAnnrachainn said:

    If you had read his website, you would have noticed that he states, quite clearly, that he only responds to queries in which he is interested.

    Many, many, many agents do this as well. No response is a no.

  3. Annie Dean said:

    Querying him three times in three months is a nuisance. If he’d wanted to see more, he would’ve asked for it. As she said, no response is a no. Be really careful how often you e-mail an agent. The last thing most of them want to do is sign a “needy” writer. Resist the urge to hit send!

  4. kis said:

    I dunno, I’ve always had this deep-seated distrust of technology. I’ve decided that I will not query agents who consider “no response” a “no”. I’ve had things lost in the mail more than once, and I’m certain more than a few emails have gone astray in the long and sordid history of this here inter-web thingie. Considering how many of my comments blogger has eaten, I think it’s unreasonable to ask an author to take no answer for an answer. I know myself well enough to realize I can’t live with that kind of uncertainty.

    That said, had I queried this agent (which I wouldn’t have), I would have followed his guidelines.

    But it sucks he can’t even have an auto-response that says simply no thanks. A couple clicks of a mouse, and it would take a load off everyone’s mind.

  5. Anonymous said:

    From the “can’t please everyone” department – Agent Kristin just did a rant last month about writers who get upset if an agent is slow to respond, and when the agent is quick, they’re accused of sending an auto-response.

  6. Ryan Field said:

    Thanks, everyone, for the comments. No arguement at all, and “kis” probably said it best that I shouldn’t have queried an agent who considers no repsonse a rejection. I’m glad most people in publishing don’t work this way.

  7. Robin L. said:

    I’m confused about something Kristin mentions here. She says:
    Unless you are Stephen, Nora, or John. Chances are good you’ll have some better royalty percentages.

    Does that mean that the more you sell, the lower your percentages are? I’m confused!!

  8. Anonymous said:

    Robin,

    I think she’s saying if you’re one of those writers, you have the clout and earning power to command higher royalty rates than the typical writer.

  9. Twill said:

    Insert the clause “Under those circumstances,” before the word “chances”, and it makes perfect sense.

    The problem is putting an affirmative conditional statement after a negative conditional elliptical sentence. Confuses people.

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